A 3D Printer For Pills Brings The Pharmacy To Your Home

A 3D Printer For Pills Brings The Pharmacy To Your Home

MIT innovation gives patients the tools to print their own medication

Jason Brick
  • 8 april 2016

MIT researchers have unveiled an on-demand pharmacy that can “print” drugs for patients in their home. The picnic-cooler-sized device takes raw materials and combines them into personalized doses of prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Similar in concept to a 3D printer for items like clothing, technology and prototypes, this gadget has the potential to change how people receive and take medication.

Traditionally, a variety of roadblocks hampers access to prescription drugs. Drug assembly often takes months to finish, and happens in batches of hundreds of thousands of pills at a time. MIT researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) developed the device in an effort to bypass or alleviate these roadblocks. When fully realized, the medical printer will be able to make 1,000 doses of a drug in just 24 hours and help avoid transportation and customization issues now faced by many patients.

Portability is another key feature of the gadget. Though conceptualized as an in-home or in-clinic option, its size makes it ideal for bringing on site to disaster areas or for relief efforts in developing nations. The project achieves this by using small tubes with continuous flow while developing the chemical reactions needed to make modern medicines. Traditional methods use massive vats—obviously unsuited for portable drug production.

As of March 2016 the device is ready to deliver four medications: Benadryl, lidocaine, Valium and Prozac. Though not all drugs can be produced via the tube method, it is theoretically ready to handle recipes for as many other drugs as are possible. It’s especially useful for so-called “orphan drugs”—those with low demand, which are made artificially expensive under the current methods.

The research team has made no comments on when the on-demand pharmacy system might see development toward commercial release, nor has the DEA commented on what requirements will be involved in that process.


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